Sunday Mass | 21st Sunday of the Year

Catholic Sunday Mass celebrated by Fr James Ralston O.M.I., recorded at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Durban, South Africa.

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ENTRANCE ANTIPHON Turn your ear, O Lord, and answer me; save the servant who trusts in you, my God. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I cry to you all the day long.

FIRST READING: Isaiah 22:19-23.


RESPONSE: O Lord, your merciful love is eternal; discard not the work of your hands.

  1. I thank you, Lord, with all my heart; you have heard the words of my mouth. In the presence of the angels I praise you. I bow down towards your holy temple. ℟

  2. I give thanks to your name for your merciful love and your faithfulness. You have exalted your name and your promise over all. On the day I called, you answered me; you increased the strength of my soul. ℟

  3. The Lord is high, yet he looks on the lowly, and the haughty he knows from afar. O Lord, your merciful love is eternal; discard not the work of your hands.℟

SECOND READING: Romans 11:33-36.

GOSPEL ACCLAMATION: Alleluia, alleluia! You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Alleluia.

GOSPEL: Matthew 16:13-20

HOMILY: Fr James Ralston O.M.I.

Sunday 21 A

Many people of firm faith feel nonetheless threatened when faced with militant atheism and its vociferous arguments. The skill and forcefulness of the argument can be unnerving when first encountered; but Christians have always had to respond to such arguments – the poking fun, ridiculing and claims of being illogical and fanciful. Sometimes the attacks just set up some object at which something could be thrown: the god that is attacked is not recognisable as the God revealed in Jesus Christ. What the readings from the Prophet Isaiah and Matthew the Evangelist invite us to do is reflect on the extraordinary reality that God actually chooses human individuals to be part of his plan for the well-being of God’s people.

To some extent this is what St. Paul is referring to in this section from the Letter to the Romans. Paul tells us in an enthusiastic and glorious outpouring of the greatness and vastness of God. This is not a silly little god, a petty idol that can be comprehended by a little human mind; this is the ultimate foundation and source of all that is, quite impossible to define by our words and concepts. Whenever we start trying to grasp God, we are overwhelmed by vastness and majesty. Paul is one who uses many arguments, from the visible world, from Scripture, from the environment and nature, but his own faith is based on knowing God in Jesus Christ, and this surpasses everything, “How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!”

There is something similar in the Gospel: Peter recognises who Jesus is but he is told, “For flesh and blood has not revealed this you, but my Father who is in heaven.” It is not that Peter has worked it out; he simply recognises something that is greater than anything his intellect and eyes can comprehend. He merely sensed this mystery, like a flash of light, in proclaiming his faith. Peter should not be viewed as being in a sort of job selection process in an ordinary sense. We know from history that a human selection process would have revealed him an unreliable and most unsuitable candidate for the post to which he would ultimately be chosen. All Christian belief is of God who is not a god we can control or relate to as an equal, whom we choose to ‘adopt’. Rather, God is the urgent, demanding God who reaches into our innermost being, and, as the great spiritual writers will tell us, shakes us and takes us over, and opens up a glimpse of God’s greatness. This means that life can never be satisfied because it has been touched by the God who unsettles and leads into restlessness.

While it is important that there are clear ways of thinking about faith and answering those who do not believe. Faith does not depend on clever arguments; as if all believers have cleverly weighed the external evidence and been convinced by someone’s arguments, faith is based on the God who speaks to the heart even if we cannot articulate well. This is why, under normal circumstances, Christians gather for worship, not to have clever ideas expounded, but to meet the living God who comes in words and sacrament.

God takes us seriously, and chooses us to be involved in the divine plan, working it out in and through our human weakness. This is something of the riches of the depths of God, and the extraordinary love and dignity that God offers humanity.

COMMUNION ANTIPHON: The earth is replete with the fruits of your work, O Lord; you bring forth bread from the earth, and wine to cheer the heart.


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